(Marvel Studios / Marvel Entertainment / Disney Studios / ABC Studios – 2017)
Summary: The next arc in the 3rd season of Agents of SHIELD has begun. Daisy has returned to the agency, Ghost Rider is nowhere to be found, and a new threat has arrived: LMDs! These Life Model Decoys are android replicates of our favorite characters out to divide the team and take over the show. Led by AIDA, an android created by the enigmatic Dr. Radcliffe, the robot revolution has begun and SHIELD is at the forefront!
Directed by Jed Whedon; Written by Jed Whedon
Review: All of you who read these reviews know that I’m not above criticizing this show for when it’s doing something wrong. With this LMD arc in particular I felt the opening episode, Broken Promises, was one of the series’ weakest episodes with poorly realized robot movie references and an invasion story featuring AIDA that, quite frankly, was not incredibly exciting. And through it all, though this arc has had wonderful episodes like The Patriot and Hot Potato Soup, neither of whom really placed the LMD arc in the forefront – at the very least not to the extent in which you think of with LMDs – they were still good for what they did with certain characters and bringing back certain loose ends.
Only last episode did the show really begin to delve into its promise of an LMD invasion and capitalize on the very paranoia that comes with not knowing if your friends are even real or not. “Who do you trust?” was the tagline to Marvel’s 2008 comic book event Secret Invasion which saw many heroes and villains being replaced by aliens known as Skrulls who kidnapped said heroes and villains throughout years and secretly replaced them. In 7 episodes we were basically told that this was going to be the MCU version of that and though I praised many episodes during this arc for their character building, I consistently stated that the actual storyline it was trying to tell was not living up to that promise.
I bring all this up because thank god Agents of SHIELD was able to pull it together this week for an entire episode that, though it doesn’t completely fix the slow burn up to this point, did address all of those very things that I mentioned up top and did it with absolute grace and dignity that really tied everything together in a neat little bow. To put it another way, my mind was thoroughly blown.
Self Control was an exercise in just that, with the story breathing incredibly fluidly as so many events were ran by us one after another at a break neck speed. Turns out Daisy wasn’t an LMD. The robots all ended up being Mace, Coulson, Mack, and in a incredible twist of fate that gave us one of the tensest scenes this series has ever produced: Fitz. While it does make logical sense, the scene between him and Jemma as the two go toe-to-toe to find out which of them is a robot gave me chills.
And those chills were even more accentuated by the ending where Jemma ends up brutally murdering LMD Fitz in a fashion that I can only imagine has to be incredibly traumatizing to her. It was probably the darkest thing this series has ever approached and I am intrigued to see where these two must go from here.
That was followed up with an equally intense scene that saw Daisy and Jemma squaring off, both unsure of whom to trust. Finally, a proper LMD invasion where everyone eventually succumb to that paranoia and fear. And the actual invasion itself wasn’t without its high points in both action and character drama. Daisy had an incredible fight with LMD Mace, and she was even able to use her powers in a new way that completely destroyed LMD Mack. And LMD May was able to perceive self control over her own programming and in an incredible scene between her and LMD Coulson discussing the nuances of humanity and love, decided to give her own life to save Jemma and Daisy so that they may go find and save their friends.
The script was very tight, yet every scene and plot line felt like it seamlessly built off of the last. It was all so very natural to the way the story always felt like it was supposed to go, even if it was never apparent before. That has always been a staple of this show: the second you begin to doubt it, like I am still guilty of doing, it shows you why you were wrong to fear. Self Control is a perfect example of that.
There’s still plenty I could discuss about this episode, so many things happened that there’s just a lot to unpack. And we still have a whole other arc waiting for us after this insane 6 week break the show is taking; which I will admit I am very much against but I have no control over these decisions. We had AIDA coming into her own form of self control just like May, making the Superior her lackey and turning on Radcliffe in a hostile and murderous way. It was a great bit of growth for her character.
However, we have to discuss the big cliffhanger of the episode that literally left my jaw on the floor: Everyone is now trapped in the Framework. The final arc of the season, Agents of HYDRA, will see our heroes explore a world where they truly believe good things have finally happened for them and HYDRA is essentially ruling the world. A true what if tale that will actually end with legitimate repercussions for our heroes. I cannot wait.
Daisy and Ward are living together, May is working for HYDRA, Coulson is a teacher discussing the dangers of Inhumans, Mack has a quaint little family life with his daughter who is alive and well, Jemma is… dead? Fitz is… a top agent at HYDRA? Maybe? These are going to be incredible explorations and I cannot wait to see what comes of them. The only people we don’t see what’s going on with them is both Radcliffe and Mace. Those are going to be interesting to explore as well, especially because Radcliffe probably won’t be able to escape the Framework after all of this is said and done.
Agents of SHIELD had one of the strongest arc endings its ever produced with this episode and I honestly am excited to see what comes next. I know I’ve already stated that, but it’s true. I haven’t been this excited for a coming AoS story in a very long time and it feels incredibly good. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Agents of HYDRA can’t come soon enough…
Final Score: 5 What If… Scenarios out of 5
Derrick is a born and raised otaku with a love for comics, anime, manga and movies. The full list is pretty long, but that’s just the basics. Stories set in space are his bread and butter.
You can find more of his writing at IndieComix.net